Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Key Findings
Welcome to The Leaders’ Report: What government communicators can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 was many different things. It was a humanitarian crisis on a global scale. A shared experience and an experiment in behaviour change. A financial disaster and a reshaping of economies. A uniquely singular global problem that governments responded to in often uniquely different ways.
If the pandemic taught us one thing, it is that good government communication – when based on scientific evidence, backed by audience understanding, developed through behavioural insights, and delivered by an appropriate messenger – can save lives. But there is much more that governments need to learn about the changes forced by the pandemic in order to support their citizens through recovery and beyond.
Covid-19 altered public attitudes and constrained everyday behaviours at speed. It accelerated many changes that were already happening in societies around the world, and created new ones. Some of these changes are temporary and historical patterns will reassert themselves as the pandemic recedes. Some are still evolving and will continue to do so over the years to come. And some will eventually become permanent and ingrained in everyday life.
A complete return of old social patterns is unlikely to occur any time soon. Despite this, significant new patterns of behaviour are already emerging that will affect the relationship between citizens and the state, and that government communicators need to be ready to adapt to.
This report isn’t a catalogue of everything that’s happened since the Covid-19 virus began to affect countries. Rather, it is a composite picture of key pressures relevant to government communication identified by working with our clients, and by working with communication specialists in WPP partner agencies around the world. These include Blue State Digital, GroupM, Kantar Public, Ogilvy, VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson.
The result is a précis of some of the emerging global pressures created by the crisis in how citizens interact with each other, with governments, with sources of information, and with platforms of technology.
Building on the findings of research conducted for the first and second editions of The Leaders’ Report, this publication summarises the importance of these changes to public bodies and public leaders, and hypothesises their longer-term impact.
About this research
This report is structured in three parts:
- An executive summary providing an overview of how 2020 exacerbated developments in government communication already under way and created new ones
- Key pressures identified across five principal areas: society, behaviours, trends, media habits, and the citizen/state relationship. Here we set out what we have learned and the possible implications for government communication
- Conclusions, and a framework for building trust and effectiveness in how approaches to government communication can be adapted to better suit the needs of post-Covid-19 societies.
The findings, conclusions and recommendations in this report are supported by the WPP Government & Public Sector Practice’s extensive work with more than 70 governments around the world. Our work is driven through hubs based in the US, Canada, the UK, EU institutions, Middle East and Australia/New Zealand. For this report, our hands-on experience with governments has been supplemented by a review of relevant research and opinion produced by WPP agencies since the beginning of the pandemic.
Next: Executive Summary